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Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 8.27.54 PMFrom the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom, a powerful new reckoning with Jefferson Davis as military commander of the Confederacy

History has not been kind to Jefferson Davis. His cause went down in disastrous defeat and left the South impoverished for generations. If that cause had succeeded, it would have torn the United States in two and preserved the institution of slavery. Many Americans in Davis’s own time and in later generations considered him an incompetent leader, if not a traitor. Not so, argues James M. McPherson. In Embattled Rebel, McPherson shows us that Davis might have been on the wrong side of history, but it is too easy to diminish him because of his cause’s failure. In order to understand the Civil War and its outcome, it is essential to give Davis his due as a military leader and as the president of an aspiring Confederate nation.

Davis did not make it easy on himself. His subordinates and enemies alike considered him difficult, egotistical, and cold. He was gravely ill throughout much of the war, often working from home and even from his sickbed. Nonetheless, McPherson argues, Davis shaped and articulated the principal policy of the Confederacy with clarity and force: the quest for independent nationhood. Although he had not been a fire-breathing secessionist, once he committed himself to a Confederate nation he never deviated from this goal. In a sense, Davis was the last Confederate left standing in 1865.

As president of the Confederacy, Davis devoted most of his waking hours to military strategy and operations, along with Commander Robert E. Lee, and delegated the economic and diplomatic functions of strategy to his subordinates. Davis was present on several battlefields with Lee and even took part in some tactical planning; indeed, their close relationship stands as one of the great military-civilian partnerships in history.

Most critical appraisals of Davis emphasize his choices in and management of generals rather than his strategies, but no other chief executive in American history exercised such tenacious hands-on influence in the shaping of military strategy. And while he was imprisoned for two years after the Confederacy’s surrender awaiting a trial for treason that never came, and lived for another twenty-four years, he never once recanted the cause for which he had fought and lost. McPherson gives us Jefferson Davis as the commander in chief he really was, showing persuasively that while Davis did not win the war for the South, he was scarcely responsible for losing it.

Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson, S.C. Gwynne.

From the publisher

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 8.32.54 PMFrom the author of the prizewinning New York Times bestseller Empire of the Summer Moon comes a thrilling account of how Civil War general Thomas “Stonewall” Jacksonbecame a great and tragic American hero.

Stonewall Jackson has long been a figure of legend and romance. As much as any person in the Confederate pantheon, even Robert E. Lee, he embodies the romantic Southern notion of the virtuous lost cause. Jackson is also considered, without argument, one of our country’s greatest military figures. His brilliance at the art of war tied Abraham Lincoln and the Union high command in knots and threatened the ultimate success of the Union armies. Jackson’s strategic innovations shattered the conventional wisdom of how war was waged; he was so far ahead of his time that his techniques would be studied generations into the future.

In April 1862 Jackson was merely another Confederate general in an army fighting what seemed to be a losing cause. By June he had engineered perhaps the greatest military campaign in American history and was one of the most famous men in the Western world. He had, moreover, given the Confederate cause what it had recently lacked—hope—and struck fear into the hearts of the Union.

Rebel Yell is written with the swiftly vivid narrative that is Gwynne’s hallmark and is rich with battle lore, biographical detail, and intense conflict between historical figures. Gwynne delves deep into Jackson’s private life, including the loss of his young beloved first wife and his regimented personal habits. It traces Jackson’s brilliant twenty-four-month career in the Civil War, the period that encompasses his rise from obscurity to fame and legend; his stunning effect on the course of the war itself; and his tragic death, which caused both North and South to grieve the loss of a remarkable American hero.

Kentucky Rising: Democracy, Slavery, and Culture from the Early Republic to the Civil War by James A. Ramage, Andrea S. Watkins

From the publisher

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 8.47.22 PMKentucky’s first settlers brought with them a dedication to democracy and a sense of limitless hope about the future. Determined to participate in world progress in science, education, and manufacturing, Kentuckians wanted to make the United States a great nation. They strongly supported the War of 1812, and Kentucky emerged as a model of patriotism and military spirit.

Kentucky Rising: Democracy, Slavery, and Culture from the Early Republic to the Civil War offers a new synthesis of the sixty years before the Civil War. James A. Ramage and Andrea S. Watkins explore this crucial but often overlooked period, finding that the early years of statehood were an era of great optimism and progress. Drawing on a wealth of primary and secondary sources, Ramage and Watkins demonstrate that the eyes of the nation often focused on Kentucky, which was perceived as a leader among the states before the Civil War. Globally oriented Kentuckians were determined to transform the frontier into a network of communities exporting to the world market and dedicated to the new republic. Kentucky Rising offers a valuable new perspective on the eras of slavery and the Civil War.

Such Troops as These: The Genius and Leadership of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson – by Bevin Alexander

From the publisher

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 8.37.07 PMAcclaimed military historian Bevin Alexander offers a fresh and cogent analysis of Stonewall Jackson’s military genius and reveals how the Civil War might have ended differently if Jackson’s strategies had been adopted.

The Civil War of 1861–65 pitted the industrial North against the agricultural South, and remains the most catastrophic conflict in terms of loss of life in American history. With triple the population and eleven times the industry, the Union had a decided advantage over the Confederacy in terms of direct conflict and conventional warfare. One general had the vision of an alternative approach that could win the War for the South—his name was Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.

It was Jackson’s strategy to always strike at the Union’s vulnerabilities, not to challenge its power directly. He won a campaign against the North with a force only a quarter of the size of the Union army, and he was the first commander to recognize the overwhelming defensive power of the new rifles and cannons. With most of its military forces on the offensive in the South, the North was left virtually undefended on its own turf. Jackson believed invading the eastern states along the great industrial corridor from Baltimore to Maine could divide and cripple the Union, forcing surrender. But he failed to convince Confederate president Jefferson Davis or General Robert E. Lee of the viability of his plan.

In Such Troops as These, Bevin Alexander presents a compelling case for Stonewall Jackson as a supreme military strategist and the greatest general in American history. Fiercely dedicated to the cause of Southern independence, Jackson would not live to see the end of the War. But his military legacy lives on and finds fitting tribute in this book.

BearssSavas Beatie LLC announced today that Ed Bearss has won the Douglas Southall Freeman Award for 2014 for his book entitled The Petersburg Campaign. The award is given to the best published book of high merit in the field of Southern history.

Edwin C. Bearss is a world-renowned military historian, author, and tour guide known for his work on the Civil War and World War II. Ed, a former WWII Marine wounded in the Pacific Theater, served as Chief Historian of the National Park Service (1981-1994) and is the author of dozens of books and articles. He discovered and helped raise the Union warship USS Cairo, which is on display at Vicksburg National Military Park.

About the book (Savas Beatie web site)

Layout 1The wide-ranging and largely misunderstood series of operations around Petersburg, Virginia, were the longest and most extensive of the entire Civil War. The fighting that began in early June 1864 when advance elements from the Union Army of the Potomac crossed the James River and botched a series of attacks against a thinly defended city would not end for nine long months. This important—many would say decisive—fighting is presented by legendary Civil War author Edwin C. Bearss in The Petersburg Campaign: The Eastern Front Battles, June–August 1864, the first in a ground-breaking two-volume compendium.

Although commonly referred to as the “Siege of Petersburg,” that city (as well as the Confederate capital at Richmond) was never fully isolated and the combat involved much more than static trench warfare. In fact, much of the wide-ranging fighting involved large-scale Union offensives designed to cut important roads and the five rail lines feeding Petersburg and Richmond.

From Amazon:

Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 1.49.41 PMA slave steals a gunboat and escapes with his entire family. Robert Smalls boarded the Confederate gunboat Planter and steamed her under the guns of Fort Sumter to the blockading Union Navy and to freedom. Robert was a slave and he surrendered to Admiral Francis Du Pont, one of the wealthiest men in the country. Robert and Du Pont created a friendship of equality that destroyed the barriers of race, wealth, and class. When he escaped with the Planter, Robert became The Man Who Stole Himself.

 

donelson

Commanding view from Fort Donelson overlooking the Cumberland River

His first task as a department head was the daunting responsibility of maintaining a long and meandering defensive line which ran from the hills of eastern Kentucky to the Mississippi River . . . . He was all too aware that if the far right flank caved in there would be serious problems in Tennessee, and Kentucky would surely be lost.

Jacobson, Eric A. (2013-11-01). For Cause and Country: A Study of the Affair at Spring Hill & the Battle of Franklin (Kindle Locations 289-290). O’More Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Sherman’s two great campaigns through the interior of the South, first through Georgia and then through the Carolinas, were enormously important in weakening both the ability and the will of the southern people to carry on a hopeless fight. The very fact that Sherman was able to march his troops hundreds of miles through the interior of what purported to be the Confederacy, seemingly unhindered by any efforts of the Confederate army, was evidence of the helplessness of the slaveholders’ republic. The marches did enormous damage to the Confederacy’s continued ability to support armies in the field, destroying warehouses, depots, stockpiles, factories, and hundreds of miles of railroad track.

Woodworth, Steven E. (2011-04-16). This Great Struggle: America’s Civil War (Kindle Locations 5933-5938). Rowman & Littlefield. Kindle Edition.

Linked to the problem of supply was the concept of lines of operations. No matter how different in size two armies might be, the only thing that mattered was the size of the force each army could bring to a battlefield at a given moment (i.e., even an army that is numerically inferior to its opponent can still achieve victory if it can manage to pick off small sections of the enemy army and defeat them piece by piece). Consequently, Mahan impressed on his West Point pupils the vital importance of operating defensively on “interior lines” and forcing the enemy to operate on “exterior lines.” (What this means is that in any given strategic situation, an army occupying the interior of a position only has to move the chord of the arc surrounding that position to get from one end of it to the other; a commander on the exterior of a position has to occupy as well as move around the circumference of the arc, which forces him to spread his troops more thinly to cover the greater distance, and take more time in moving from point to point along the arc.) By taking up “interior lines,” a numerically inferior army could defend itself more easily, and could move to strike at exposed positions along the enemy’s arc faster than the enemy could reinforce them. For an attacking army, the best way to overcome the advantage of interior lines was to outflank the enemy’s lines entirely by means of turning or flanking movements. Hence, Civil War battles often found themselves determined by how successful one army was at getting hold of the other’s flank and compelling a withdrawal, rather than by head-to-head attacks.

Guelzo, Allen C. (2012-04-20). Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction (pp. 149-150). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

The Confederates eventually synthesized these various strands of strategic theory and political reality into what Davis called an “offensive-defensive” strategy. This consisted of defending the Confederate homeland by using interior lines of communication (a Jominian but also common-sense concept) to concentrate dispersed forces against an invading army and, if opportunity offered, to go over to the offensive, even to the extent of invading the North. No one ever defined this strategy in a systematic, comprehensive fashion. Rather, it emerged from a series of major campaigns in the Virginia-Maryland and Tennessee-Kentucky theaters during 1862, and culminated at Gettysburg in 1863.

McPherson, James M. (2013-01-28). Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Kindle Locations 7206-7211). ACLS Humanities E-Book. Kindle Edition.

Given the advantages of fighting on the defensive in its own territory with interior lines in which stalemate would be victory against a foe who must invade, conquer, occupy, and destroy the capacity to resist, the odds faced by the South were not formidable.

McPherson, James M. (2013-01-28). Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Kindle Locations 17673-17675). ACLS Humanities E-Book. Kindle Edition.

Compromise was dead. On December 20, 1860 the very idea of a United States of America began to unravel.

Jacobson, Eric A. (2013-11-01). For Cause and Country: A Study of the Affair at Spring Hill & the Battle of Franklin (Kindle Location 264). O’More Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Shelby Foote on our failure to compromise:

It was because we failed to do the thing we really have a genius for, which is compromise. Americans like to think of themselves as uncompromising. Our true genius is for compromise. Our whole government’s founded on it. And, it failed.

From Ken Burns, The Civil War

shelby

nashville

LOC Nashville

Having already ceded Kentucky to Federal control, the failures at Henry and Donelson were serious setbacks that forced Johnston to withdraw deeper into Tennessee . That movement resulted in the forfeiture of invaluable territory and led to the hasty evacuation of Nashville without even so much as a fight. Abandoning Nashville, her factories and stores, and the city’s 17,000 citizens was an industrial and psychological loss from which the South never fully recovered. Nashville forever remained the lost jewel of the Confederacy, and the dream of regaining the city would die hard.

Jacobson, Eric A. (2013-11-01). For Cause and Country: A Study of the Affair at Spring Hill & the Battle of Franklin (Kindle Location 302). O’More Publishing. Kindle Edition.

By moving into western Kentucky and Tennessee on the rivers, rather than marching overland through eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, a Federal army could turn the Confederacy’s uppermost flank and easily peel open the upper South like ripe fruit. “Move up the Cumberland and Tennessee, making Nashville the first objective point,” Halleck recommended. “This line of the Cumberland or Tennessee is the great central line of the Western theater of war, with… two good navigable rivers extending far into the interior of the theater of operations.”

Guelzo, Allen C. (2012-04-20). Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction (p. 195). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

The capture of forts Henry and Donelson was enormously important and might almost be called the first turning point of the war. Up until that time, the Confederacy had had things pretty much its own way, but it never fully recovered from the loss of the forts. The twin February victories gave the Union control of the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers deep into what had been Rebel-controlled territory. Union gunboats, transports, and armies could range up the Cumberland all the way to Nashville and up the Tennessee all the way into northern Mississippi and Alabama. The Rebels could no longer hold positions along the Mississippi in the states of Tennessee or Kentucky because Union control of the Tennessee guaranteed the defenders would easily be turned and possibly trapped. Half the state of Tennessee passed to Union control, and the partial Confederate grasp on the state of Kentucky was gone. Within weeks, Union troops would be poised on the edge of the Deep South states.

Woodworth, Steven E. (2011-04-16). This Great Struggle: America’s Civil War (Kindle Locations 1717-1723). Rowman & Littlefield. Kindle Edition.

Strategically, the victories at Forts Henry and Donelson opened the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers as avenues of irresistible Union advance, completely unraveling Confederate defenses from the Mississippi to Nashville and southward to the southern boundary of Tennessee. Seven days after the fall of Donelson, the Confederates evacuated Nashville.

Woodworth, Steven E. (2007-12-18). Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861-1865 (Vintage Civil War Library) (p. 119). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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The Civil War Gazette (CWG) is published by Kraig McNutt, Director of The Center for the Study of the American Civil War. The CWG was first launched on to the World-wide Web in 1995.

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